Dietary fiber or fiber from the diet, is that carbohydrate portion of plants, that is not digested in the intestinal tract by enzymes. Some of the dietary fiber is metabolized in the lower gut by bacteria. The fiber present in plants are of different types: pectin, gum, lignin, cellulose, hemicellulose and mucilage. Of these types, gum, pectin and mucilage are water soluble fibers located within the plant cells.
Sources of soluble fiber are oat bran, fruits, beans, vegetables, etc. which when ingested slow down the passage of food, via the intestines. They also lower blood cholesterol levels. On the other hand, fibers present in the cell walls such as hemicellulose, lignin and cellulose are insoluble fibers. They increase the fecal bulk and speed up food passage in the intestinal tract. They also act like natural laxatives and reduce the body's risk of getting colon cancer.
The faster the wastes travel through the bowel, the lesser toxins are absorbed. Moreover, these fibers contain no calories and also indirectly assist in weight loss, by giving a feeling of fullness, thereby preventing overeating. Vegetables and beans are good sources of insoluble fiber, however, whole grains and wheat bran are opulent sources. Thus, the crux of the matter is that dietary fibers are key components of the diet and play crucial roles in waste elimination. Lack of dietary fiber results in slower transit of food passage via the digestive tract, leading to toxin absorption in the body. However, the presence of too much fiber in the diet, is becoming a growing concern today, as more and more people are increasing their intake of fiber (beyond what is necessary) for weight loss purposes.
Appropriate Fiber Amount Intake
The recommended intake of dietary fiber is 25-35 grams per day. Most of the classical American processed diets furnish the body with less than 15 grams a day, which is way below the recommended level. This data clearly reveals that Americans receive less fiber than required from their diet.
Effects of Too Much Fiber in the Diet
People hear about the various benefits of fiber in the diet and make sudden transitions in dietary patterns. However, this sudden change from a low fiber diet, to an opulent fiber diet is a little too much for the body to handle. The body requires its acclimatization period. In fact, in the initial days of diet transition, even slight increase in fiber content spearheads gastrointestinal symptoms such as cramping, diarrhea and intestinal bloating. This is why one should gradually increase the fiber intake in the diet, thereby giving the body ample time to get accustomed to the dietary change. While trying out this pattern, one should drink lots of water, so as to keep the stools soft, as the fiber makes them bulky.
One should introduce higher levels of dietary fiber in the body on a gradual note. However, the question that arises is, where to draw the line? Nobody wants to consume more than the required amount of fiber. Consumption of excess high-fiber products (fiber bars) available in the market, can lead to intake of double the recommended amount of fiber. Fiber is good for the body, however, eating too much fiber has its own set of consequences. It is believed that anything above 45 grams of fiber intake, is considered as too much fiber in the diet. People on higher-than-required fiber diets encounter constipation problems. This is because a fiber opulent diet, increases the bulk of the stool by water retention. Lack of water can lead to blockage and even serious injuries, requiring surgical intervention.
Thus, a high-fiber diet should be backed by lots of water intake. Moreover, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea and gas are some other effects of too much fiber in the diet. Intake of excessive levels of fiber in the diet, is also believed to reduce absorption of certain minerals like calcium, zinc and iron. However, the validity of this fact is still disputed. So don't overload your system with fiber and you will be healthy and fine!